Obituary: Sir Roderick MacLeod

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Hugh Roderick MacLeod, shipping executive, born 20 September 1929, Member Leith Docks Commission 1960-65, Joint Managing Director Ben Line Steamers Limited 1964- 82, Chairman and Chief Executive Lloyd's Register of Shipping 1983- 93, Chairman Associated Container Transportation Ltd 1975-78, Kt 1989, married 1958 Josephine Berry (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1985), died 22 January 1993.

RODERICK MacLEOD's premature death leaves a large gap in shipping industry ranks. The Chairman and Chief Executive of Lloyd's Register, the world's leading ship-classification society, he was fortunate enough to see within his own lifetime wide recognition of a successful career dedicated to shipping.

Articulate and blessed with a sharp and logical mind, he impressed all who met him with his loyalty and commitment; behind a genuine courtesy, too, lay toughness and determination. These characteristics were displayed to advantage in the early Eighties when MacLeod represented UK shipowners during a seafarers' strike, at a time when UK shipping's industrial relations were a bed of nails. In the arduous negotiations which attended the strike, his effective advocacy and steadfastness earned respect from both friend and foe. Then, when the excitement was over, keen to improve the relationship between owner and seafarer, MacLeod hosted a party at Newbury races where combatants set aside their differences in 'glorious conviviality'.

When in 1983 he became Chairman of Lloyd's Register of Shipping it was a happy appointment. Decades of financial disasters and intense competition had put enormous pressures on shipowners and classification societies alike. Governments worldwide were increasingly concerned about what they saw as a marked decline in shipping industry standards of safety and environmental concern.

With London being the shipping centre of the world, MacLeod saw the need for fundamental, but speedy responses to these important international issues. Within Lloyd's Register, this involved the timely restructuring of the organisation; without, the aim was to increase the effectiveness of the world's classification societies in assessing ships' fitness for purpose. Success required serious co-operation between keenly competitive societies. MacLeod's diplomatic skills, experience in shipping and concern for safety were ideal qualifications for the Presidency of the International Association of Classification Societies, the body reformed to ensure the rigorous application of classification standards. With his arrival came new energy, purpose and direction.

He also pioneered the 'Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance', a concept which has been indispensable in furthering safety and efficiency in industry. The initiation of change, rarely achieved by simple fiat, was not easy.

Roderick MacLeod's contribution to the national interest was recognised by a knighthood in 1989. One particular activity he relished was the chairmanship of the committee appointed by the government to determine the future shape of Royal Navy frigates. Whether such vessels should be short and fat or conventionally long and thin was a matter of intense debate, particularly among naval architects.

His wide responsibilities required him to travel extensively. The Lloyd's Register Magazine seemed incomplete without a photograph of their peripatetic chairman meeting and greeting dignitaries in far-off places. To travel with him was a delight - the keen eye for the passing scene, the apparently limitless fund of apt quotations for every occasion and the omnipresent humour.

Not even a severe stroke could deflect him from his purpose. After he had found himself in hospital and admonished to take things more easily, in no time at all he was back at his desk at LR's headquarters in the City of London.

This pace-setting commitment did not, however, deny him the pleasures of his personal pursuits. His retirement, due in the middle of this year, was not an entirely alluring prospect for him, but the thought of fishing the Usk at his new home in the Brecon Beacons gave him great satisfaction. The secluded nature of this favourite form of relaxation perfectly matched the man who was as much at home in the country as he was in urban society; and whose personal life remained essentially private despite his companionable qualities.

(Photograph omitted)